We've seen it circle and circle our yard, swooping lower and lower, sailing on their IQAir, but not once has it tried to get me, luckily!
We were curious about what hawks are really interested in, so we did some research. Here is a great bit of info from another concerned pup owner:
From the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis-St. Paul:
Q: Help! I can't even take my dog outside anymore!
We live in Edina and the red-tailed hawk population seems to have exploded. A while back, I was in the yard with my full-grown but only 4½-pound dog and a very large red-tail passed right over us. I quickly scooped up my little dog and tried to scare the hawk, but it kept slowly circling right above us, just above the treetops.
Later that same day I found half of a rabbit at the end of our driveway, and my husband later found its entrails in the front yard. I feel horrible about this because not only does my dog really miss playing outside, but I was the one who talked my husband into spending $4,000 to fence our back yard, and now we can't even use it without risking our beloved dog's life.
Is there anything we can do?
A: Yes. Let your dog go outdoors. If you're concerned, stay with it. Dr. Terri Derr of Veterinary Behavior Options doesn't believe the hawks are a danger to your pet.
Red-tailed hawks usually hunt and kill animals that are about 50 percent of their own body weight, she explained. This means that a 2-pound hawk (the average size of hawks here) will not try to kill and eat anything bigger than 1 pound.
The hawk's circling behavior is not a sign that it was waiting for a chance to swoop down on your dog -- it just means the bird was looking for something to eat. They do eat small animals, but mice, voles, snakes and carrion are the usual components of their diet.
Hawks will occasionally dive-bomb other animals to drive them out of their territory or to simply practice hunting skills. The behavior is scary, yes, but not life-threatening.
We are seeing more hawks because we're encroaching on their habitat; the ones that survive are those that can tolerate a certain proximity to people. This does not mean the birds are more likely to attack in the presence of a person.
Can small dogs be carried off in front of their owners? Yes. Does it happen often? Not at all. Wild animals seek prey that can be gotten with a minimum of effort. Stealing little dogs away from their owners doesn't fall into that category.
According to Derr, your dog should be safe from red-tailed hawks in a fenced back yard, especially if your dog is just out for a short time. Particularly when it's cold, dogs do not want to sit alone for hours in the yard. They want to go out to eliminate and sniff around; they may chase squirrels or other wildlife, but before long they want to be back with their people. The happiest dogs are those whose people are nearby.
Owls are bigger than red-tailed hawks and so are more of a threat to smaller animals. But because they hunt at night, we rarely see them and so do not perceive them to be as much of a threat.